February 22, 2022
Investments in cold storage facilities, amendment of the Rice Tariffication Law, and promotion of agriculture among young people will be pushed by aspiring senatorial candidates Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano once reelected.
During the online forum Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Alyansa Agrikultura and three other organizations, the two senatorial reelectionists also said agriculture’s budget increase will be top of their agenda.
Escudero said cold storage will play a significant role in upgrading Filipino farmers’ livelihood status as it will enable the transport of farm goods to unserved areas.
It will preserve farm goods’ quality, raising their prices, while serving the needs of locations that do not produce these goods.
“We lack cold storage facilities. We can’t assure the good quality of our produce without cold storage in each province. Why don’t we put up incentives for (those investing) in cold storage?” said Escudero.
As most of the cold storage facilities in Metro Manila are designated already for imported goods, Escudero said government can assume what importers are doing—renting in advance these facilities. That is to assure that Filipino farmers are equally accorded the benefit of preserving their produce’s good quality.
There are hardly cold storage facilities in Bicol Region, Masbate, and Catanduanes. Such facilities are found only in Albay and Camarines Sur.
Cayetano said during the same forum that integrating successful small farming models into the national program is needed in order to upscale agricultural production. For instance, Jollibee and San Miguel Corp, he said, are already entering into contract growing with farmers’ group.
“Our good ideas are never integrated,” said Cayetano during the online forum also co-organized by the Federation of Free Farmers, Coalition for Agricultural Modernization, and Rice Watch.
Regarding the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), Escudero said he will push for an amendment of the RTL. It has not achieved what it intended to do – supposedly to benefit the rice sector and rice farmers and bring rice price down for consumers.
“Our imports should have a timing. Why do we import (rice) during harvest? The imports compete with what our own farmers produce. We import galunggong. If only we supported fishermen with fingerlings, the benefit should have gone to our own fishermen,” said Escudero.
Cayetano said there is so much fishing opportunity in Laguna Lake which only has a P40 million budget. But the beautification of Manila Bay with dolomite received an initial P50 million, then P200 million.
Presidentiables should be made to commit to complete a certain number of hectares of irrigation capacity during his term, he said. Commitment should also be done on a concrete number of farm to market roads to be constructed during a presidentiable’s term, Cayetano said.
As the average of farmers in the Philippines is already at older side of 53 now, Cayetano said agriculture should be promoted among young people as “desirable and profitable.” That is considering that there are many rich people engaged in agriculture, unlike what is popularized as the image of poor Filipino farmers.
“You can see (poor) farmers shown on TV. But if they watch European or American movies where farmers are rich and using drone and high tech devices (our young people will be convinced to take up farming,” said Cayetano. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)